Councillors discuss rise in district’s council tax

Parkside Chart Way Horsham - Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council SUS-150723-162029001
Parkside Chart Way Horsham - Horsham District Council and West Sussex County Council SUS-150723-162029001

Council tax could rise for the first time in six years as part of measures to deal with the district’s financial deficit.

At Horsham District Council’s Cabinet meeting on Thursday, July 23, held at Parkside in Chart Way, councillors discussed ways in which the district could become more financially self sufficient with more government grant cuts expected for local authorities over the next few years.

The discussion came as members looked over the review of the council’s financial strategy for 2016 to 2019.

After reading the report it was recommended members note the budget gap and bring forward strategies to deal with the projected deficit in time for the 2016/17 budget setting process.

For the past six years the district council element of council tax has been frozen and has been one of the lowest rates in West Sussex.

The report suggests another £480,000 could be raised over the next three years if council tax is increased by one per cent each year.

It also states £480,000 could also be raised over the next three years if the tax is raised by two per cent in 2016.

Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), cabinet member for leisure and culture, said in order to keep providing and improving services in the district some controversial decisions may have to be made in the future.

He said: “It is strange actually you can be living in some of the poorest parts of this country and pay the highest council tax or you could live in one of the wealthiest parts of the country or one of the best places and pay very low.

“You could say council tax is a bit like a service charge.

“Here we are with one of the lowest service charges in one of the best places in the country to live and that is quite strange.”

Councillor Leonard Crosbie (LDem, Trafalgar) was sitting in on the meeting and agreed with the idea council tax should be looked at.

Mr Crosbie said: “Before the election there were factors evident in not raising council tax.

“I think we have come to the end of the line with that one.

“I think we need to look at council tax, I think we need to look at what it means and might introduce it at one or two per cent levels.”

Leader of the council Ray Dawe (Con, Chantry) added raising council tax and other charges were a possibility but the decision would have to be run past the full council.

Other suggestions were also made by councillors including looking at the New Homes Bonus and improving the property portfolio.

At the meeting members also approved a report which will see the council invest £5m into its property portfolio.

The council is now recommended to approve the decision at its next meeting which will mean individual investments will now be made by the cabinet member for finance following consultation with the council’s Property Investment Advisory Group.

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